BERKELEY, Calif. – Eastern Washington University football coach Beau Baldwin said earlier in the week that he didn’t have a defensive game plan capable of shutting down 10th-ranked California’s high-octane offense.
The plan instead was to slow down the Golden Bears by limiting their big plays and staying stingy in the red zone – which, in the end, didn’t work either as Cal (2-0) raced away from a first-quarter tie to bury the undermanned Eagles 59-7 in a non-conference matchup in Memorial Stadium.
Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns and Cal amassed 507 yards of offense in brushing aside their Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
“They were the most complete team I’d ever seen on film,” Baldwin said of the Bears, who tore up his defense for 342 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. “They’re big up front, they’re fast on defense. They just do everything right.”
Eastern nearly upset an FBS team last season before giving up two late touchdowns in a 31-24 loss at Colorado. Despite giving up an early score against Cal, they played the Bears to a standoff in the first quarter, which ended in a 7-7 tie.
“We kind of gave them a scare in that first half, and showed them we were here to play,” said Matt Nichols, the Eagles’ senior quarterback who completed 23 of 31 passes for 195 yards and his team’s only touchdown. “We came down to win a football game, and if one or two plays go our way, we go into halftime with a little bit better score.”
Nichols completed eight of his first nine passes, beating Cal’s star cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson on a 36-yard pass play to Aaron Boyce and throwing a 4-yard scoring pass to Grant Williams midway through the first quarter. But the Bears defense stiffened after that, twice stopping EWU on fourth-and-short situations in its own territory to set up Best & Co. with excellent field position that helped produce a pair of touchdowns.
Nichols spread the football around for Eastern, connecting with nine difference receivers, including Tony Davis, who hauled in eight passes for 71 yards and tight end Nathan Overbay, who made seven catches for 62 yards.
“After the first half we were a little dissatisfied with ourselves and the way we had came out,” said Cal’s backup running back Shane Vereen, who scored on three short runs. “So we really wanted to start fast in the third quarter and see where it took us. We definitely feel better about the second half. I think we came out with a little bit more focus and determination.”
Cal, after leading 24-7 at intermission, outscored the Eagles 35-0 in the second half as Baldwin pulled several of his key players – including Nichols – midway through the third period in an effort to keep them healthy for Saturday’s 1:05 p.m. Big Sky Conference opener against Northern Colorado at Woodward Field in Cheney.
(10) CAL 59, EWU 7
Cal—Riley 1 run (D’Amato kick)
EWU—G.Williams 4 pass from Nichols (Jarrett kick)
Cal—Vereen 1 run (D’Amato kick)
Cal—FG D’Amato 19
Cal—Best 22 pass from Riley (D’Amato kick)
Cal—Best 1 run (D’Amato kick)
Cal—Vereen 2 run (D’Amato kick)
Cal—Vereen 2 run (D’Amato kick)
Cal—Sofele 22 run (D’Amato kick)
Cal—DeBoskie-Johnson 1 run (D’Amato kick)
|Time of Possession||32:20||27:40|
RUSHING—E. Washington, Beaumonte 9-21, G.Williams 2-5, Jones 4-2, Hart 4-1, King 1-(minus 2), Nichols 6-(minus 3), Burgett 1-(minus 5), Minnerly 1-(minus 5). California, Best 17-144, DeBoskie-Johnson 11-92, Vereen 12-45, Sofele 2-36, Riley 4-25.
PASSING—E. Washington, Nichols 23-31-0-195, Minnerly 3-4-0-7, Burgett 2-2-0-19. California, Riley 13-20-0-148, Sweeney 1-1-0-17.
RECEIVING—E. Washington, Davis 8-71, Overbay 7-62, B.Brown 4-24, Boyce 2-33, Jones 2-11, Hart 2-7, Edwards 1-5, Martin 1-4, G.Williams 1-4. California, Miller 3-48, Marv.Jones 3-29, Holley 2-32, Best 2-19, Sparks 1-17, Curran 1-10, Vereen 1-6, Boateng 1-4.